Today is World Food Day, commemorating the founding of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1945. Amid a global food crisis, this year’s theme, “leave no one behind,” marks a call to action for governments, UN agencies, private actors, and humanitarian organizations to ensure the human right to food.
The global food security outlook is bleak. The FAO’s 2022 Global Report on Food Crises estimates that 193 million people in 53 countries were food insecure and needing urgent assistance in 2021. Millions more across the world face soaring prices for basic foodstuffs, driven by Covid-19-related supply chain disruptions, extreme weather events, and conflicts like the war in Ukraine.
In Sri Lanka, the World Food Programme estimates that more than 6 million people, nearly one-third of the population, are experiencing food insecurity, as the country faces an economic crisis that has pushed millions into poverty. In Afghanistan, just under half the country, nearly 19 million people, is experiencing high levels of food insecurity, with more than 34,000 children admitted to hospitals with severe malnutrition in 2022, according to the World Health Organization. The consequences of malnutrition can last a lifetime, and include stunting, developmental delays, and impaired immune systems. It’s also likely that many other children never made it to a hospital.
Governments and the international community need to provide immediate support to the most vulnerable by increasing funding for emergency food aid and expanding social protection systems. Other influential actors, such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and creditor nations should not exacerbate the crisis by pushing countries to implement austerity measures in Covid-19 economic recovery plans.
Access to adequate food is a basic and essential human right. Increasing funding for social protection and guaranteeing the availability of affordable food is key to ensuring that truly no one is left behind.